Chinese Xinhua News Agency reported last week that one line of the Beijing subway system is beginning to introduce soda machines that accept mobile payments. Payments for the vending machines, deployed at two stations on Beijing Metro Line 4, are run by payment processor Alipay.

"Contactless" mobile payment at a vending machine isn't a new idea, but the machines deployed by Alipay for the Beijing subway system don't use NFC or QR codes. Instead, they use ultrasound to transmit information between the user's handset and the vending machine.

To use the machines, subway riders follow prompts on the vending machine to make a selection, then choose the Alipay mobile wallet payment option and place their phones next to a sensor on the machine. A one-time code is transmitted to the sensor via sound and the machine dispenses the drink. The post said the total transaction time is less than a minute.

This is the first time sound waves have been used at vending machines, Alipay wireless business development director Wang Yuming said in the story. He stressed that the code transmitted to the vending machine is secure and does not include any identifiable information.

More than 30 machines supporting the new sonic pay technology will be deployed on the subway line with the expectation that additional machines will be deployed at locations such as technology companies and universities.

The machine manufacturer said that vending machines equipped to accept payments by ultrasound cost about 15 percent more than ordinary machines, but operators save money by eliminating counterfeiting and cash management fees.

Read more about contactless payments.

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